Stanford Week Two Hoops Preview

So Stanford Hoops lands in the House that ‘Hov Built and prepares to play its first back-to-back games of the season. For a team that has been a bit reluctant to use its bench, it will be interesting to see how Coach Dawkins utilizes his reinforcements, especially on night two. So we look briefly at the Cardinal and then at its guaranteed opponent and its potential two Saturday opponents.

[Ed: 'Hov or 'Hova are additional nicknames for the rapper and minority Brooklyn Nets stakeholder Jay Z, nee Shawn Carter. And for a glossary on the advanced metrics used, click here.]

The Stanford Cardinal (KenPom link.)
2014-'15 W/L: 2-0
2014-'15 Current Pomeroy Ranking: 54
Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 106
Adjusted DRtg: 96
Adjusted Pace: 67 Possessions Per Game
Roster By Class: 3 5th Year Sr., 3 Sr., 3 Jr., 3 So., 4 Fr.
Returning Starters: 3 (Randle, Brown, Nastic)

For a more detailed review of the Cardinal’s first two games, check this out. Stanford comes in undefeated, like every other participant in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, and they arrive having traveled the longest distance, narrowly edging out its Friday night opponent, so that factor should be a wash. At this time, the Cardinal heads into the game injury-free and with a full complement of players. The headline story on the individual front will be whether or not Stefan Nastic can continue his inspired play to start the season. The Nasty Man carries a staggering 78% true shooting percentage onto the floor. He has taken on a significantly increased role in the offense, using 26% of the team’s possessions. He faced constant double and triple teams on Sunday, but it remains to be seen how the larger and more athletic frontcourts this weekend choose to defend him.

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
2014-'15 W/L: 2-0
2014-'15 Current Pomeroy Ranking: 99
Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 99
Adjusted DRtg: 94
Adjusted Pace: 67 Possessions Per Game
Roster By Class: 3 Sr., 3 Jr., 3 So., 5 Fr.
Returning Starters: 0

The Runnin’ Rebels face a significant amount of turnover this year as they integrate several young players into critical roles. Of their five minutes leaders through two games this year, four are underclassmen and three of those four are freshmen. The Rebels have two narrow wins against lower-level competition in Sam Houston State and Morehead State. This may be the right time to be playing them, given all that youth. 81% of their scoring and 77% of its rebounding are missing from a year ago. Coach Dave Rice is in his fourth year with the program, and is aided by senior Cody Doolin, who joins the Rebel backcourt by way of USF. Doolin, however, is only taking 8.5% of his team’s shots. Instead, the youth movement is in full effect in Vegas. Rashad Vaughn and Christian Wood dominate the ball for this team. Wood has taken a staggering 43% of his team’s shots while on the floor, and Wood takes about 30%, despite being off to a slow shooting start. He is only shooting 33% effective (eFG) and 37% true (TS). Nastic will face his physical match in Goodluck Okonoboh, a 6-foot-10 freshman who starts at center for UNLV. Given the low scores of its first two games and its defensive rating of 94, this figures to be a strength on strength contest for Stanford’s offense and the Rebels’ defense. Both will be facing legit opposition for the first time this season. One would think that Stanford’s experience should be enough to make the difference, but we’ll know tonight.

The Temple Owls
2014-'15 W/L: 2-0
2014-'15 Current Pomeroy Ranking: 108
Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 99
Adjusted DRtg: 95
Adjusted Pace: 69 Possessions Per Game
Returning Starters: 3 (Cummings, DeCosey, Brown) Roster By Class: 4 Sr., 5 Jr., 2 So., 1 Fr.

The Owls, as opposed to UNLV, are a relatively experienced team. Unfortunately, most of that experience from last year was losing. Like UNLV, they appear to be not so much an offensive juggernaut but the complete opposite. Their season kicked off with a mind-numbing 40-37 victory over American, a game which must have reverted to original Naismith rules of a jump ball after every basket and a perpetually running clock. They burst forward into the 21st century with an 81-75 victory over Louisiana Tech on Monday, but overall, this doesn’t appear to be a very explosive offense. Will Cummings, a senior guard, takes 29% of the Owls’ shots while on the floor. This is unfortunate for Temple because he is currently sporting a 17% eFG, suggesting Temple might want to get some other players looks. Quentin DeCosey is the number two option on offense with an eFG of 42%, which only looks good in comparison. Both players are well below the poor offensive rating of 90, remembering that 100 is roughly average with smaller ratings better for defense and worse for offense. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they are slumping, and if they should cross paths with Stanford, we’ll hope that “slump” continues.

The Duke Blue Devils
2014-'15 W/L: 3-0
2014-'15 Current Pomeroy Ranking: 2
Adjusted ORtg (Points Per 100 Possessions): 116
Adjusted DRtg: 90
Adjusted Pace: 70 Possessions Per Game
Roster By Class: 2 Sr., 3 Jr., 4 So., 4 Fr.
Returning starters: 3 (Cook, Sulaimon, Jefferson)

On the off chance that Temple has an off night and the Cardinal win tonight, their opponent on Saturday would be the clear-cut pity invite of this tournament, Duke. Like UNLV, the Blue Devils feature a lineup that is very inexperienced. Unlike UNLV, Duke’s inexperience is much, much better than most teams’ experience. The Blue Devils devoured its first two cupcakes, and then scored a solid win over the Fighting Izzos on Tuesday night. They play faster, score better, and defend more effectively than any team in this bracket, and they shouldn’t be pushed in their opening-round game. A win tonight would set up the storyline that’s been in the works for seven years: Coach Dawkins versus his alma mater. Whether the story would match that hype remains to be seen. As a team, Duke is shooting an incredible 69% effective. They hardly turn the ball over despite their inexperience. Their 14% turnover rate is one of the best in the nation.

Duke is led by three freshmen off to insanely efficient starts. Justise Winslow, Grayson Allen and Jhalil Okafor take the lions’ share of the shots, and with good reason. Winslow is shooting 55% eFG as the team’s most frequent shooter, and that's eclipsed by Allen’s nuclear (and Nastic-like) 73% eFG and Okafor’s absurd 83% eFG. All carry offensive ratings off the charts, though Okafor’s slow start at the foul line (3-of-7) suggests that he’s racked up a lot of dunks on his way to accumulating that number. Nevertheless, should Stanford meet Duke, the Nasty Man will have his hands full to say the least.

There’s really no downside to playing Duke during the regular season (or, if you’re Connecticut, in the postseason,. They are guaranteed resume-builders win or lose, and they would certainly give the Cardinal a VERY clear diagnostic exam, though it may be as painful as the one Chevy Chase receives in the middle of Fletch(“MOOOOOON RIVERRRRRR”). That possibility notwithstanding, a date against Duke should be what every Cardinal fan hopes for on Saturday. And what could be better than watching our boys play the No. 2 team in America on the hardwood after watching three and half hours of soggy football in God’s Hellhole (Berkeley)? The usual small sample size caveat applies to everything this early in the season, but it’s safe to say that the picture of the Cardinal hoopsters after four games will be much more revealing than the one after two games.


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